Change Must Occur

I can’t imagine the fear that a black person, especially a black man, feels while walking the streets of America. The systemic targeting of the African American community must change. I condemn racism and all violence toward any people group.

HOW CAN WE MOVE FORWARD AS A NATION?

We know that moving forward will take a combination of systemic changes and personal heart change. We need to hold these two realities carefully so we don’t oversimplify how real change happens. I first want to address changes we need at the highest levels of our government, then I will address how we can bring that home to our community at Multnomah.

  • I implore our national, state, and local leaders to enact effective legislation that mandates police reform. We respect and honor all police officers with the commitment to serve and protect. We also see that reform is needed in how we protect and serve all people. I am calling for strict parameters around the appropriate use of force, which must be established and enforced. I support the minority leaders in their national call for police to stop using knee or chokeholds. I also want to call for greater accountability and transparency. I assert that police officers who abuse their power by unjustified use of lethal force must be held accountable. I also realize that silence can equal violence to communities that are vulnerable. Police officers who stand by and don’t intervene when other officers use excessive force must also be removed from their jobs as bystanders with culpability in the harm.
  • I urge the FBI and the Justice Department to develop a joint, diverse task force of investigators who will respond quickly and seek justice for people of color (especially black people) when questions of excessive force or criminal violence have been raised. This task force should investigate future incidents of violence against communities of color to ensure accountability and equitable treatment for all communities.
  • I urge our political and civic leaders to quickly provide financial and other resources to the communities devastated by the violence in recent days. Small business owners in underrepresented neighborhoods need swift assistance to rebuild so their communities can thrive in the months and years ahead. Big businesses should be encouraged to stay present in these communities, as well, in ways that are helpful to the local community.
  • I call for ongoing federal, state, and local resources to be strategically invested in our neighborhoods of color throughout this nation and for local community leaders of color to be included in the decisions on how to rebuild their neighborhoods. It is critical to listen to the community leaders from these local areas instead of imposing our solutions on the communities from the outside.
  • I call upon religious leaders to mobilize their congregations to increase their work for justice and reconciliation in their communities and in their own lives. This is already a Gospel imperative, but I pray for a renewed commitment from evangelical communities to see the eradication of racism as part of our work as Jesus followers.

HOW CAN WE MOVE FORWARD HERE AT MULTNOMAH UNIVERSITY (MU)?

I want to transition now to address what we are committing to here, in the MU community. This conversation is important not only while this topic is dominating the news cycle, but for the future health and well-being of our university.

  • Board members, administration, students, faculty, staff, and every member of the Multnomah community must all share in this important work, not just our Diversity and Inclusive Development Team. This work is for all of us to shoulder, not just for the people of color who are precious members of our community. Majority culture must make this a priority and view anti-racism as a biblical imperative.
  • We need to continue and strengthen the work that has been underway over the last few years to become a more inclusive learning community. We have worked on diversifying the board; supporting our voices scholars; opening the Multicultural Center; conducting cultural competency training; diversifying the learning experience; improving our Student Success Center, and doing what we can to ensure all students can accomplish their educational goals and find belonging in the community here. We will be investing more into these existing motions at Multnomah with a greater emphasis on listening to the opinions and input of people of color in our community.
  • As a learning community, we need to grow more in our active and intentional listening skills. We need to value and better leverage all voices within our community in our search for God’s voice and truth.
  • We need to increase our training, foster a culture of honor and respect, and learn cultural humility across all segments of our learning community.
  • We commit to improving our hiring practices to ensure that more people of color are being considered, interviewed, and joining our team.
  • We want to create the space for true biblical lament (anger, angst, calling out) among our learning community without it being shamed or criticized.
  • As we encounter systemic racism within our organization, we will take responsibility and address it.
  • We will continue to seek and grant forgiveness when we or others fail so that our community is grace-filled instead of punitive.
  • We will not simply wait until this current moment passes and go on with our business as normal—we will create a better community that is committed to uprooting the status quo that is hurting so many people of color.
  • We commit to working together to heal the soul of our nation and her people. We commit to do this by being peacemakers, no longer just “peacekeepers”.

Sincerely,

G. Craig Williford, P.h.D

President

cwilliford@multnomah.edu

June 5, 2020 | News